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Archive for October, 2011

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Oct. 27, 2011Highlights from the Oct. 27 issue of New York Teacher:

Be BRAVE against bullying
UFT announces a new campaign
With many political supporters and plenty of press, the UFT launched a new campaign, called Be BRAVE Against Bullying, on Oct. 19. The multifaceted campaign aims at changing school culture so that bullying is recognized for what it is — and not tolerated.

UFT launches anti-bullying hotline
“Every single child has a right to go to school without being intimidated or harassed, and every parent has the right to know that their child can go to school safely,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said at a press conference at City Hall on Oct. 19 to announce a new anti-bullying hotline. The confidential hotline, staffed by licensed counselors, operates weekdays from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

UFT joins D.C. event to reaffirm King’s commitment
Three-thousand UFT members joined tens of thousands of other trade unions, civil rights and community activists on Oct. 15 for a march and rally reaffirming Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to jobs and justice and inaugurating the imposing carved stone memorial commemorating his life and legacy.

Walking tall
Making Strides against Breast Cancer
UFTers did it again and in style. Under blue skies and bright sunshine, thousands proudly walked in the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 16 carrying the blue-and-white UFT banner in all five boroughs plus Jones Beach. The participation of 1,000 UFT members in the Bronx was a special tribute to Annette Carlucci, teacher, chapter leader and high school representative who died from breast cancer during the summer. More »

“Parent Power” Documentary Premieres Nov. 3

When a group of Bronx parents discovered that only 17% of their children could read at grade level, they launched a campaign to improve their local elementary school. That campaign evolved into a citywide coalition, uniting thousands of parents from African American and Latino neighborhoods across the city, to bring a quality education to NYC’s children. “Parent Power” tells their story.

There will be a panel discussion following the screening; AFT President Randi Weingarten is among the scheduled panelists.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 3
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: NYU’s Cantor Film Center, 36 E. 8th St., Manhattan
RSVP: Register for the premiere online »

Pity the Poor Millionaires

Michael Mulgrew has an op-ed in today’s Daily News on why the State Senate and Assembly must extend the state tax on upper-income earners.

Hedge fund magnate John Paulson — who reportedly made $5 billion personally last year — reacted recently to Occupy Wall Street protesters by talking about how much the top 1% of New York City families pay in income taxes. What he didn’t talk about was how the same 1% made nearly half (44%) of all the income in the city, or that when all state and local taxes are taken into account, the richest taxpayers in fact pay a lower percentage of their total income in taxes than do people in the middle.

Meanwhile, with unemployment levels stubbornly high, median family income declining and public services under budget pressure, times are getting tougher for almost everyone else.

Public school class sizes in New York City — already far higher than in surrounding communities — are getting bigger still. Our annual survey in September showed that an estimated one-quarter of the city’s public school children were in one or more oversize classes as the school year began. After-school programs are disappearing. Art and music have become things of the past in our schools. Hundreds of school aides are on the unemployment line.

More »

Why We Can’t Fire Our Way to Urban School Reform

A recent SchoolBook article on the high teacher turnover at one of Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Schools raises an important question in the debate over improving urban schools — how can we stop corporate education reform’s focus on “getting rid of bad teachers” from creating a level of instability in school staffing that hurts our city’s students?

The case of turnover in the Harlem Success schools is only the latest example of this issue, but it’s a striking one. Over a third of the teachers at Harlem Success 3 have chosen to leave the school in the past few months, a decision Moskowitz describes as “frankly, unethical.” At the same time, however, Moskowitz chooses to employ her staff with a policy of “at will employment” rather than a negotiated contract. Under this model, she and her principals have the right to terminate teachers’ service at the school at any time, for any reason. In fact, Steven Brill’s Class Warfare describes the case of one new teacher who was “forced out” only a few months into the school year when a young principal at Harlem Success decided she wasn’t a “good fit” for the school.

The deep irony here is that in this view of “ethical” teacher turnover, Moskowitz and her staff believe that they should have sole control over determining whether a teacher is a good fit for the school — but in the article, teachers’ stated reasons for voluntarily leaving seem thoughtful and professional: More »

The One Percent And Us

We Are the 99 PercentOver the last few weeks, a small team of New York City building inspectors descended upon UFT headquarters, responding to a mysterious 311 call. Our building has been placed under police surveillance, and at times police have been posted as guards at our doors.

The One Percent appears to be a tad bit irritated by the UFT’s support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. We were one of the unions who took the lead in organizing the October 5th rally and march which brought out thousands of New York’s working people to express their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. UFT President Mulgrew has been at Zuccotti Park a number of times, speaking to the assembly, and was joined by AFT President Weingarten on one occasion. Our headquarters are a few blocks away from Zuccotti, and we have provided space for meetings of different groups supporting OWS. We have also given over a major section of our street level space to storage for OWS, for donations of materials and supplies sent to them and for the stowing of personal belongings on the morning when Bloomberg threatened to “cleanse” Zuccotti. This was the space that the building inspectors suddenly needed to inspect.

Oh, and last weekend, we sent forty sandwiches left from our conference for charter school educators over to Zuccotti. I had not thought much of that donation until Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charles Gasparino called the UFT on Monday. It seems that Gasparino had visited Zuccotti over the weekend and decided that it was a haven for communists. And he had witnessed the masses at Zuccotti eating our sandwiches. Why, he demanded to know, was the UFT providing sustenance to violent revolutionaries? Confronted with the results of Gasparino’s crackerjack investigative reporting, I decided that it is time to confess. Yes, I authorized that sandwich smuggling operation. More »

Fulfilling the Promise: Building a Progressive Charter School Movement

The fall UFT Charter Conference, Fulfilling the Promise: Building a Progressive Charter School Movement, will take place at United Federation of Teachers Shanker Hall, located at 52 Broadway in Manhattan on Friday, October 14, 6-8 p.m. and Saturday, October 15, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Register Now!

Join your fellow charter school educators from New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey as well as expert scholars from around the country for a weekend of panels and workshops planned by teachers, for teachers. Gain practical professional development experience while networking with other charter teachers.

Confirmed Speakers:

• Michael Mulgrew, UFT President
• Deborah W. Meier, Coalition of Essential Schools
• Steve Barr, Board Chair, Future is Now Schools
• Luis Miranda, Board Member, Amber Charter School
• Robert Hughes, New Visions for Public Schools
• Jeff Henig, Columbia University
• Norm Fruchter, Annenberg Institute on School Reform, Brown University
• Jonathan Gyurko, Leeds Global Partners
• Mona Davids, New York Charter Parents Association
• James Forman, Jr., Yale Law School, Founder of Maya Angelou Charter School
• John Parr, Education Evolving
• Zakiyah Ansari, NYC Coalition for Educational Justice

Panels and Workshops:

• How Charters and Unions Can Work Together for Social Justice
• Progressive Visions for Charter Contracts and Collective Bargaining
• Increasing Teacher, Parent and Student Voice in Charters
• Supporting Progressive and Innovative Pedagogy in Charters
• Building Connections between District and Charter Schools
• Unions, Charter Schools and Democracy

Certificates of participation will be available to all participants; these can be applied towards up to seven hours of the five-year 175-hour professional development requirement for teacher certification.

The conference is free and open to all charter educators. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Visit the UFT ACTS site for more information on the panels, workshops, and speakers.

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Oct. 13, 2011Highlights from the Oct. 13 issue of New York Teacher:

‘Enough is enough!’: UFT, other unions join protest, march against Wall Street greed
Teachers, transit workers, health care workers and other working New Yorkers joined forces with the young people from Occupy Wall Street, an anti-Wall Street protest encampment that has occupied Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park since mid-September, for a spirited rally and march of tens of thousands on Oct. 5.

Young protesters showed the way
“I want to thank Occupy Wall Street and all the people who have shown up to fight for our kids,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the young protesters as thousands of labor and community marchers flowed into Zuccotti Park from their march down Broadway.

Class sizes highest in a decade
A UFT survey indicates that by mid-September there were approximately 7,000 oversize classes in city public schools, a situation UFT President Michael Mulgrew termed “horrendous.” Based on school registers for the sixth day of school, the latest figures top last year’s by nearly 1,000 and are the highest in a decade.

We’ve got kids’ back(pack)s
“It’s beautiful,” Brianna said, as she examined her new backpack. . The 5th-grader was among a group of kids who were treated to a studio tour at Channel 11 on Sept. 22 and received backpacks filled with school items for a good start to the school year. It was part of “Project Back to School,” organized by the Coalition for the Homeless and sponsored by the UFT, Channel 11 and other groups.

Students talk about what makes a teacher great
Let’s set aside the hieroglyphics — the wacky value-added models no one understands. How can you identify an effective teacher? Maybe ask the students they teach. In a new booklet filled with moving stories, New York City teen writers recall teachers who helped them learn to navigate the confusing world around them. More »

Sharing Best Practices — A Lesson for the Charters

When it released the 2011 Progress Reports to the public last month, the DOE made a point of noting that charter schools received more A’s than did their regular public school counterparts.

Technically that’s true, but technically is about as far as it goes. When we compare the charter middle school A’s to the public middle school A’s for example, we see that the Progress Reports offer little evidence of better student achievement. In fact, in spite of an uneven playing field that should have tilted the scores in favor of the charters, the Progress Reports actually indicate that when it comes to academics, the middle school charters that got A’s did not do that well.

Leaving aside demographics1, let’s take a look at the things that should have tilted the advantage to the favor of the middle school charter A’s. Then, let’s look at the results and some possible implications for our schools. We often hear that our public schools need to learn something from our charters. But it seems the charters may have a lesson they need to learn as well.

One note: throughout this post, charter A’s and public A’s refers to A-rated middle schools.

Uneven Playing Field: Grade levels

Though 12 of the 23 middle school charters earned A’s last year, only one had the same grade configuration as the regular publics against which it was graded. The different grade-levels should have given the charters a comparative advantage.

First, 9 of the 12 charter A’s included a fifth grade and the vast majority of regular public schools (over 95%) do not. That’s a statistical problem because for a variety of reasons, fifth graders citywide — and probably nationwide — outperform students in grade 6-8. Passing rates on the Math state tests, for example, drop 7 points between 5th and 6th grade. In ELA the drop is 5.5 points. When the performance of schools with 5th graders is compared to schools without 5th graders, the schools that serve them ought to do better on the Progress Reports, which measure exactly these things. More »

Participating in Our Democracy

Not surprisingly, Jon Stewart last night provided some of the most thoughtful coverage of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, which yesterday was bolstered by union members in a big rally and march from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park.

The Daily Show‘s bread and butter is its effortless exposure of the rank hypocrisy of Fox News — at this point, for Daily Show writers, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Here (at the 3:20 mark) Sean Hannity is shown praising the “quintessentially American”-ness of Tea Party protests in 2009, then declaring yesterday that the Occupy Wall Streeters “really don’t like freedom.”

Another highlight is a clip of one eloquent protester being interviewed by a Fox News reporter (around 1:50):

After 30 years of having our living standards decrease while the wealthiest 1% have had it better than ever, I think it’s time for maybe, I don’t know, some participation in our democracy.

[UPDATE: That activist is Jesse LaGreca and the NY Observer has video of the rest of his interaction with the Fox News producer.]

The segment also does a nice job summarizing the criticism mainstream media outlets have heaped on the movement for what they see as a lack of a clear message, demands or proposed solutions. To those talking heads, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff says, “You don’t get it.”

Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning […]

Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns. More »

We Are the 99 Percent

We Are the 99 PercentThe UFT is participating in a community-labor march tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 5 as we demand that the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share of taxes. Albany must renew the state millionaire’s tax that is due to expire on Dec. 31.

At 4:30 p.m., members will gather near the UFT banner in Foley Square. Marchers will step off at 5 p.m. from Foley Square and head to Zuccotti Park, where they will be welcomed by the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have created an encampment to denounce corporate greed and the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this country. Their rallying cry: “We are the 99 percent.”

View the march route »

Occupy Wall Street »

We Are the 99 Percent »

Watch “American Teacher: A Documentary”

Playing at AMC Empire 25
234 West 42nd St. in Manhattan
October 1–6: 10:40 a.m., 1 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 11:45 p.m.

Oscar winner Matt Damon narrates this eye-opening look at the American education system, as viewed from the perspective of four dedicated teachers and seeks to counteract popular misconceptions about the teaching profession by showing, in a style of close-up realism, what teachers actually do and what their lives are really like — and how continued neglect of the profession may be jeopardizing the nation’s future.

Directed by Academy Award winner Vanessa Roth and produced by Dave Eggers and Ninive Caligari, American Teacher: A Documentary aims to address the difficult questions about the broken public school system through honest dialogue with the people who strive to give our children a proper education. The film is part of the Teacher Salary Project and is based on the book “Teachers Have it Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers.”

The film portrays five K-12 public school educators from across the country as they navigate the daily challenges of balancing their teaching career with their personal lives. Every day, Jamie Fidler, Jonathan Dearman, Erik Benner and Rhena Jasey each preside over a classroom full of children with unbound potential. But due to the fact that funds are in short supply and the hours can be grueling, it’s a constant uphill battle. Perhaps even more troubling is the revelation that over three million American teachers will be eligible for retirement in the next decade, and that the current crop of college graduates are turning away from the profession in droves due to minuscule wages and a complete lack of prestige. Realizing that quality teachers are the key to a good education, Roth profiles four educators who have devoted their careers to the betterment of today’s youth but recognize that the entire system could collapse at any moment.

Read more about the film:

Official website of the film

Los Angeles Times review

Education Week review

“Do Teachers Have it Made? Hardly, a New Film Says,” SchoolBook, The New York Times